Die Frau ohne Schatten
(The Woman without a Shadow
) is an opera
in three acts by Richard Strauss
with a libretto
by his long-time collaborator, the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal
. When the work premiered in Vienna
on 10 October 1919, critics and audiences were unenthusiastic (many cited problems with Hofmannsthal's complicated and heavily symbolic libretto). Today, the opera is considered by some to be Strauss's finest work in the genre, while others disagree.
Work on the opera began in 1911. Hofmannsthal’s earliest sketches for the libretto are based on a piece by Goethe
, “The Conversation of German Emigrants” (1795). Hofmannsthal handles Goethe’s material freely, adding the idea of two couples, the emperor and empress who come from another realm, and the dyer and his wife who belong to the ordinary world. Hofmannsthal also drew on portions of the Arabian Nights
, Grimm's Fairy Tales
, and even quotes Goethe's Faust
. The opera is conceived as a fairy-tale on the theme of love blessed through the birth of children. Hofmannsthal, in his letters, compared it with Mozart’s Magic Flute
, which has a similar arrangement of two couples.
Strauss began composing immediately. He and Hofmannsthal worked on music and words in parallel, each receiving inspiration from the other. Strauss was happy with Hofmannsthal’s text, but asked him to rewrite many passages for the sake of dramatic effect. Hofmannsthal was adamantly opposed and was more worried about the......